JK Cement Case Study- Facilitating Safe Return to Workplace

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JK Cement Case Study- Facilitating Safe Return to Workplace
There was fear, confusion, joy, a feeling of discomfort, some questioning the timing in wake of a much-hyped impending third wave. We had prepared our offices to follow strict covid protocols

How has JK Cement facilitated employees’ safe return to Workplace?

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”– John C. Maxwell

The above quote is very very relevant to the last 12-15 months. Everybody of us had a routine, which had taken shape over the years, whether homemakers or office goers, daily travellers, the way households have been managed, etc.

Suddenly we were forced to change. It was difficult, in fact not so much difficult, rather very uncomfortable and scary.

As the second wave of coronavirus subsides in the month of June 2021, without worrying what’s going to happen next, we are once again preparing employees physically and mentally to come back to office.

There is fear, there is an excitement, but that uncertainty is continuous

Is it going to improve now, will we come back to Before Covid (BC) times, isn’t there a prediction for the third wave, then why we do this, and, again changing our set routines at home.

As an HR head of a company that is into a traditional manufacturing sector, where physical office has been irreplaceable, where work from home was unthinkable, it has been like a Tsunami. But we survived. We never knew we could swim so well…but it was a realisation that as far as offices are concerned, we are not much different from a company of the likes of an IT/ITES, or a services company where WFH was in vogue much before, except of course that we also have manufacturing facilities.

“Ofcourse, it took effort, it was a change process. E-meetings, e-joining, e-induction, e-townhall, e-tambola, e-party, “e” replaced “p” (Physical) almost everywhere”

Once again we are striving to bring back employees to office. In plants and Factories, things have changed too, especially related to covid protocols, but not so much otherwise, as physical presence has always been required, especially in our kind of continuous process industry, though the factories were also closed at many many places, where they work more on a batch mode, or, are not in the essential list.

It’s not easy, to say the least. All employees don’t have the luxury of having their own conveyance, they used to take Metro, Shared cabs, Office buses, autos, etc. How should they travel now, is it safe. Is it worth the risk?

“To be or not to be is the Question”

Many of us like me are grappling with this confusion, especially when we are talking of bringing back employees to physical workspaces.

Is it the right time? is it still early? is it going to be like this only now, going forward? so be it, or, wait for some more time and let there be more light.

We at JK Cement decided to take the plunge, bolstered by more than 90% of eligible employees already vaccinated with at least one dose, across the company, to open our physical offices from mid-June, 2021. The rest 10% of the employees are those who got infected in the months of April and May and are not eligible for the vaccination as of now but can come to office as they also carry good amount of antibodies in their bodies. When we announced this to people, it was a mixed reaction, and honestly, it was expected.

There was fear, confusion, joy, a feeling of discomfort, some questioning the timing in wake of a much-hyped impending third wave. We had prepared our offices to follow strict covid protocols which I am sure most of the companies would have done.

  • A sanitizing Tunnel at the entrance gate, temperature checks, sanitisation machine for bags/belongings, no physical touch point for attendance, compulsory masks, sanitizers at every work stations, no physical meetings, cafeteria out of bounds, so food, etc have to be taken at respective workplaces, no visitors for physical meetings, compulsory vaccination to come to office etc. We have even adopted a policy that all new joinees (which are 50-60 No’s per month) must get vaccinated before joining (ofcourse, we will pick the cost).
  • With not allowing more than 30% of the employees to be in office at any point in time, we opened our offices for 7 days a week, to give employees more flexibility to choose any 2 days to come with flexible hours, knowing very well that this is going to be a big change in their routine after a year, and, there maybe someday to day routine differences with everybody while working from home, which needs to be given time to be adjusted finally to come back to office routines.
  • So far so good, started with 2 days a week for 15 days, and then we allowed the third day in a week as optional. At the time of writing this story, we are keeping a close watch and providing all possible support to employees and their families as well.

The mood is upbeat with a sense of relief, among employees, when they come back to their workstations, which is like a second home to most of us, 8-9 hours of our everyday life getting spent there. It also gives that much-needed emotional strength when one gets back to the ecosystem, and can physically see the support system available. A sense of near normalcy lifts the spirit in a big way.

The optimism is further strengthened when we remind ourselves that it cannot be gloomy forever, as they say, “One which goes down cannot go down forever, there is a “Nadir” and things have to look up after that.

Wishing and hoping that the Nadir is reached, we are looking forward to a more flexible, physically, and emotionally supported workplace.

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